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Volume 81: debated on Tuesday 18 June 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he or other Foreign Office Ministers have any plans to seek to visit Cuba.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that there has been no ministerial visit of any kind, Foreign Office or otherwise, to Cuba since 1975, and does he agree that such a visit now would do a power of good? On his attitude to such a visit, will he assure the House that he will not be swayed one way or another by anything that is said in Washington?

Following his visit to Cuba in January of this year, I understand my hon. Friend's interest in this matter. It is not a question of being swayed one way or another by Washington. Commercial relations between the United Kingdom and Cuba are developing well, but we have been unable to make plans for a visit within the heavy schedule of ministerial visits. However, this will be kept under review.

Surely this is an important area to visit. Is not Britain being left behind by events in Central America? Cuba is building up strong links with all the Latin American countries, including the new democracies. Is the Under-Secretary of State aware of the Cuban proposal that Western Governments should take over from the banks responsibility for external debt, amounting to £360 billion in the case of Latin America? Since British banks have a large involvement, what is the British Government's response and what action are the British Government taking?

This question has nothing to do with taking over the debt responsibilities of Latin American countries. The hon. Gentleman is mistaken if he does not believe that there has been an improvement in our relations with Cuba. Last year our exports to Cuba greatly increased and Cuba is now Britain's fifth largest export market in Latin America. However, as I said, we are not at the moment considering a ministerial visit.